Court Allows Haifa University to Continue Contentious Dorm Policy

In 2006 court ruled policy of requiring military service in dorm applications discriminates against Arabs.

The High Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that Haifa University would be allowed to continue its policy of giving preference to Israel Defense Forces veterans in its dormitory application process, a policy which some consider discriminatory against Arab students.

In August 2006, The Haifa District Court ruled that the University's policy of requiring dormitory applicants to have completed IDF service excludes most Arabs, and is thus discriminatory. The court consequently ordered the university to abolish this policy.

However, High Court Justice Asher Grunis granted Haifa University's request to delay the execution of the earlier ruling, and allow the university to continue with its current policy until an appeal filed by the university is ruled upon.

Grunis wrote in his ruling that the High Court of Justice determined in 2006 that "requiring military service is not invalid," and rejected a petition demanding the discontinuation of preferential Housing Ministry loans granted to IDF veterans.

Grunis added that since the percentage of Arab students living in Haifa University dorms (35 percent) is higher than the percentage of Arab students attending the university (20 percent), the policy does not apparently harm the Arab students. In 2006, the Haifa District Court judge said that these statistics, which were presented during the first trial, have no bearing on the matter at hand. He explained "it is possible that the Arab population is given to greater financial distress than other sectors, and if the criteria is financial standing, then it is only natural that the number of members of the Arab minority eligible for dormitories due to poor financial standing should be greater."

The original ruling was handed down by Judge Ron Sokol, following a petition submitted by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel - and three female Arab students. In 2005, the university rejected applications by the three for dorm rooms, despite their difficult economic straits and the poor public transportation between their hometowns and the university.

The university grants dormitory rooms based on a list of criteria, including socioeconomic status and academic achievements. As Haaretz has noted in the past, students can receive 40 percent of the points by having completed military service.

"The military service requirement discriminates against a variety of sectors," Sokol wrote. He said even though there are Israeli Arabs who do serve in the IDF, "Military service is not open to the general Arab public of the State of Israel" and noted that Israeli Arabs are legally exempt from service.